Former bank employee guilty of embezzlement

A former Jersey Shore State Bank employee was found guilty of embezzling over $50,000 from a close friend who trusted her with the funds. The trial concluded Friday in U.S. Middle District Court.

Jolene M. Edwards, 39, of Lock Haven, was found guilty of embezzlement by a bank employee and guilty of three charges of interstate transportation of stolen property after 4 1/2 hours of deliberation. She also was charged with two counts of bank fraud, but was found not guilty on both charges.

Edwards, an assistant branch manager of Jersey Shore State Bank in Jersey Shore, was alleged to have scammed her close friend, Anthony Arduini, out of a $52,222 certificate of deposit (CD) in 2012.

Between 2010 and 2014, Edwards was friends with Arduini, according to statements from both parties. Edwards helped take care of Arduini’s sick mother, bought groceries and cleaned his home. The defense argued that Edwards never stole the money, but that Arduini had given it to her as a gift.

The defense closed its argument on Friday, asking the jury to consider why Edwards, who Arduini had made the beneficiary of his $93,000 annuity and his will, would have scammed the man out of his money.

“If Jolene really and truly wanted to go after his assets, all she had to do was nothing,” said D. Toni Byrd, federal public defender.

Assistant U.S. Attorney George J. Rocktashel, however, argued that Arduini had spoke with Edwards about putting the $52,222 into a CD account at M&T bank with the purpose of it being under her name for his personal use.

Instead of going through with Arduini’s wishes, after he had taken the money from his CD in Jersey Shore State Bank, Edwards kept $6,000 for her own use and placed $46,222.14 in a personal account at M&T.

The prosecution pressed that by Edwards keeping a portion of the funds and placing the rest in a different fund from what Arduini had asked, she had committed two separate charges of bank fraud.

The jury, however, found that Edwards was not guilty of either of the charges and that she hadn’t obtained the money from Jersey Shore State Bank by false pretenses.

When Arduini asked for the funds back from Edwards in late 2014, she already had spent a majority from the CD and electronically transferred $19,400 of the funds to three separate banks.

Edwards then looked to two friends to loan her the money she needed to pay Arduini back, said Rocktashel. The prosecution questioned her actions to refund Arduini when the defense had stated that the money was a gift.

“Why, when things hit the proverbial fan, did she scramble to return the money to the customer when they needed the bills?” Rocktashel asked the jury.

Edwards was able to amass the money needed to pay Arduini back and, according to Rocktashel, wanted to pay him back in cash. Arduini’s niece insisted that Edwards pay him back through a bankers check, and the group met at Jersey Shore State Bank, where Edwards returned the funds.

According to the prosecution, there were numerous occasions during the transaction that Edwards had attempted to conceal a paper trail.

The jury ruled that, despite returning the funds, Edwards had embezzled them from Arduini for her own use.

Edwards was released on her own recognizance and is awaiting sentencing.